Optimising transit container control implies a strong regional police cooperation

Article, 08.04.2014

Interview with Besnik Murrani, Albanian customs officer

Since 2006, Besnik Murrani has been working as a customs officer at the port of Durrës, situated 30km from Tirana, the capital of Albania. He and his team are receiving training financed by the SDC as part of an inter-regional police cooperation project in the Western Balkans. Established by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Customs Organisation, the “Container Control Programme” is helping Balkan countries to fight organised crime in a more coordinated manner.

Since 2012, Besnik Murrani has been interacting with colleagues in Montenegro as part of a combined training programme to combat organised crime.

How are you, as a customs officer, benefitting from the regional police cooperation project?
In Durrës, I lead a team of six, consisting of two customs officers, two immigration officers and two drug squad officers. We began training under UNODC in 2012. In addition to helping our unit strengthen partnerships between the law enforcement agencies as requested by our government, this training has brought us into contact with our colleagues in Montenegro. Together, we trained for several weeks in the area of fighting organised crime. One highlight was our visit to the port of Göteborg in Sweden. We learnt a great deal from this.

Has there been a positive impact on your day-to-day activities?
Our routine involves analysing the documentation describing the cargo merchandise transiting through Durrës and, when necessary, inspecting containers. Not only does this require having the right equipment, which is provided to us by UNODC, but also excellent coordination between port and police authorities across the region. Just two months ago, thanks to a tip-off from Macedonian customs officers, we intercepted 171kg of cannabis destined for Italy in a shipment of chromium. We were not making drug hauls like that before. It’s extremely satisfying.

What are the next phases for the ongoing police cooperation project?
The joint customs and police operational unit that we have set up in the port of Durrës seems to be inspiring several neighbouring countries. I know that Bosnia-Herzegovina is in the final stages of launching a similar unit for a ‘dry port’ on its territory. It is likely that we will be able to share the benefits of our experience with them. In the coming days we will receive a delegation from Kosovo for a working visit. This will provide us with an opportunity to also establish links with our Kosovan neighbours, which is crucial as the bulk of the containers from the Balkan region transiting through Durrës come from Kosovo and Macedonia. And finally, on our side, we are planning to visit the strategic port of Gioia Tauro, in Italy, to set up a permanent system for exchanging information with the authorities there. In Durrës, since the cargo terminal opened in 2006, container traffic has been increasing every year.